Dig Diary – Monday, July 9, 2018
The Ness is in full flow…
Week two at the Ness started this morning, bright, early and blessedly cool.
There is also quite a lot of cloud around and this means that good photographs can be taken without irritating shadows from the sun.
The lack of heat was also very welcome over in Trench Y, outside the modern fence line which girdles the site and exactly where site director Nick hopes the missing side wall is to be found.
It looks as if he may be right.
After a good deal of mattocking Mike and his team have managed to remove much of the surprisingly thick plough soil, which has crept down the slope from agricultural activity in the field.
This has revealed a rather irregular spread of stones which, nevertheless, has enough definition to suggest that it is not natural.
It seems likely that many of the huge stones from the wall have been robbed out, as Nick believes the new spread of smaller stones could represent the debris from the robbing event.
What is needed is a clearer understanding of exactly what the new stones represent. However, even if some of the big blocks of stone from the wall have been removed, it may be that the inner and outer faces of the wall are still intact further down, together with evidence of foundation levelling.
Only time, and further hard work from Mike and his team, will provide the answer.
In Trench T, more of the many pits have been defined and removed as swiftly as possible. These enigmatic affairs, dug out in the Neolithic and immediately backfilled with the material just removed, have bedevilled Trench T for the last year and more.
The next task is to excavate more of the midden at present obscuring evidence for the robbing event which appears to have taken away much of Structure Twenty-Seven.
This will be done with great care and, unfortunately, it is now unlikely that the occupation levels of this most puzzling of structures will be reached this year – however with the skill and enthusiasm of the team nothing should be ruled out.
Structure Twenty-Six, our newish addition to the family of Ness buildings, is proving to be rich in finds.
These are largely to be found in the collapsed infill material and they represent artefacts from very late in the history of the site.
So far today, Claire and her team have uncovered a variety of stone tools, a large sandstone block with a depression on the top which may be a mortar stone, and sherds from a remarkably handsome later Grooved Ware vessel.
This pot has applied cordons which have been incised vertically into short sections, and in one part of the pot where two cordons treated this way are one above the other, they give a slight impression of bricks in a wall.
Other treatment of the pot includes circular impressions linking diverging cordons, and carefully incised lines running right round the interior of the rim.
This is as much as can be seen at the moment, but when the sherds have dried out a little, careful brushing of the midden material clinging to their surfaces will almost certainly reveal more detail.
In Trench J, work on the small extension is revealing several potential features which are very shallow and are being half-sectioned and drawn.
They are undoubtedly the product of late, ephemeral activity on this part of the site but, as Paul and his team record and remove them, the uncovering of the full form of Structure Five comes nearer.
In Structure One, the removal of the roof slate horizon which was found under the curving secondary wall is moving ahead quickly.
Jim will record the slates three-dimensionally and Andy’s team will carefully measure and record them before they are taken away and all their details added to our database with over 750 catalogued so far and counting.
Marc is also making progress disentangling the evidence of the many burning events in the large hearth before that, too, is removed to allow access to the precious primary floors.
Meanwhile, under the watchful eye of Jo Bourne, Structure Eight was re-opened today. After removing the last of the covers and sandbags, this most spectacular of buildings is now ready for action.
As readers can see from today’s diary, archaeology at the Ness is now in full flow and progressing rapidly.
Tomorrow we look forward to more of the same.
See you then.